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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 July, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Ronaldinho: A lucky escape?
By Tim Vickery and Paul Fletcher

Brazil and Paris St Germain star Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho's decision to snub Manchester United for Barcelona could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Premiership champions.

The mercurial Brazilian topped the list of United's summer targets and their high-profile failure to land him is clearly something of an embarrassment for the Old Trafford club.

And there is no doubt the talented playmaker's dazzling skills would have added a dash of samba flair to the Premiership.

But the manner in which the player handled himself during the protracted race for his signature combined with a history of mediocre club form suggests United's failure may not be the disaster it first seems.

Represented by his brother, Roberto Assis, a series of mixed messages emerged from the player's camp all summer as United, Real Madrid and then Barcelona joined the scramble to sign him.

Ronaldinho hardly chose the low profile approach to handling the situation, a tactic that may have caused Sir Alex Ferguson to question the wisdom of signing him.

Having just sold David Beckham after tiring of the England captain's razzmatazz lifestyle, one can only wonder what Ferguson made of Ronaldinho's fleeting visit to London earlier in the summer to promote a video game.

The newspapers were packed with photos of the 23-year-old surrounded by a bevy of beauties in a London nightclub.

Can he shoulder responsibility? Can he perform week in, week out? Can he really become one of the greats?
Okay, Ronaldinho was effectively on his summer holiday but his behaviour may have brought memories of Dwight Yorke flooding back to Ferguson, a player with whom the Brazilian bears more than a passing resemblance.

And then there is the player's career to date.

The hugely talented Brazilian has been a potential superstar for years but he has his doubters, and their number grew after the Confederations Cup.

Brazil's former World Cup referee Josť Roberto Wright has a column in the country's principal sports daily and after the Confederations Cup he wrote: "Ronaldinho has ability, but produces little for the team.

"He chooses the unproductive individual move rather than collective play."

Ronaldinho was an undoubted star at the 2002 World Cup, but that is just as well because his career would look very thin without his achievements in the yellow shirt of Brazil.

He was the bright young star with his home town club of GrÍmio. But only after he left did the team win a major title, the Brazilian Cup in 2001.

In the euphoria of victory some of the players commented that the team's collective play had improved in Ronaldinho's absence.

D.O.B: 21 March 1980
Clubs: Gremio (1998), Paris St Germain (Spring 2001)
Brazil career: 39 caps, 15 goals
Honours: World Youth Championship 1997, Confederations Cup 1999, World Cup 2002
His arrival in France did little for Paris Saint Germain's trophy cabinet. Results on the field have not matched the potential of the playing staff.

PSG have had two mediocre seasons in the French Championship, and were out of the Uefa Cup before Christmas in both of the last two years.

So along with the abundance of talent, Ronaldinho also carries with him a number of question marks.

Can he shoulder responsibility? Can he perform week in, week out? Can he really become one of the greats?

It all adds up to the possibility that United have had a lucky escape.


Ronaldinho set for Man Utd
28 Jun 03  |  Man Utd
Ronaldinho fits Ferguson's bill
23 Jun 03  |  Other European
07 May 02  |  Squad

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